- the exhibition -
Alem Will Stay
single-screen video work by Kooj Chuhan with the Lo-Stock Hi-Drama group
A turbulent video installation produced by Kooj Chuhan and drama students at Lostock High School, based on the book "Refugee Boy" by Benjamin Zephaniah, in which a series of doubts and myths are overcome in the joint efforts to stop fellow student and refugee Alem Kelo from being deported.
This is the result of a series of workshops at Lostock Community High School in Trafford, Gtr Manchester, which began with a set of sessions called "Borders Between People" to discuss the issues around asylum, devised by Kooj Chuhan and teacher Mark Krantz. Critically, they found that discussions based around simple human concerns, which avoided the usage of phrases such as ‘asylum-seeker’ yet focused on exactly the same issues, led to a completely different dialogue and perception of the issue – one which was almost universally sympathetic and led to the students all writing passionate letters to the Home Secretary. Mark is keen to use these materials on an annual basis to form a regular module within the 'Citizenship' curriculum. As a part of these workshops, particular extracts from the excellent novel "Refugee Boy" were used.
Following this came a short series of drama and video workshops by Kooj with teacher Sue Hilton which involved various scenarios to recreate abstracted ideas from "Refugee Boy", and designed for shooting on video. The students responded to the idea that Alem Kelo (the main character in "Refugee Boy") was actually at the school and about to be deported. The ‘turning around’ of many students views which took place during the “Borders Between People” sessions became the basis for the video narrative in which a variety of race disputes are resolved by simple human appreciation for a fellow student’s predicament. In addition to scripting and production, the students also carried out an entire set of rough edits for the work.
Mark Krantz continued to use methods and video material from this project in subsequent years and wrote an article reflecting on the experience entitled "Alem's Story: A school explores contradictions within attitudes to asylum using video art".